BOWES, Sir George (1527-80), of Streatlam, co. Dur. and South Cowton and Aske, Yorks.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1558-1603, ed. P.W. Hasler, 1981
Available from Boydell and Brewer



Family and Education

b. 1527, 3rd but 1st surv. s. of Richard Bowes, captain of Norham castle, by Elizabeth, da. and coh. of Roger Aske of Aske; bro. of Robert I. m. (1) 1541 (he aged 14, having been contracted at seven), Dorothy, 3rd da. of Sir William Mallory of Studley, nr. Ripon, Yorks., 4s. inc. Robert and Sir William 3da.; (2) 1 July 1558, Jane, da. of Sir John Talbot of Albrighton and Grafton, Worcs., 5s. 4da. suc. fa. 1558. Kntd. 1560.2

Offices Held

Marshal, Berwick-upon-Tweed 1558-61, acting marshal 1579-80; provost marshal, Earl of Sussex’s army 1569.

J.p.q. Dur. bpric. and Yorks. (N. Riding) bef. 1562, Yorks. (E. and W. Ridings), Cumb., Northumb., Westmld. 1573; sheriff, Yorks. 1562-3, co. Dur. 1575-6; member, council in the north from Apr. 1561.3


The north-country family of Bowes is described by Surtees as a line of knightly rank, connected by marriage with ‘the first nobility of the north, Graystock, Fitzhugh, Conyers, Eure and Clifford, and, what is more singular, ... distinguished by civil or military talent in every successive generation’. Seated at Streatlam since about 1310 or earlier, it had acquired Dalden in 1375, Barnes in the same county by about 1400, South Cowton during the last quarter of the fifteenth century, and subsequently Aske. Apart from its lands and military obligations, the family had numerous and varied interests, ranging from mines, fisheries and salt-pans to a ferry-boat and harbour dues in the developing coal-trade port of Sunderland. Of this family Bowes’s father, the captain of Norham, became head in 1555 when the last of his older brothers, Sir Robert, master of the rolls under Edward VI and five times a Member of Parliament, died without surviving issue. Three years later, Bowes himself succeeded to his father’s seniority, and in the same year, by his marriage to a Talbot, allied his family to the powerful house of the earls of Shrewsbury. From his cousin Sir George he inherited Streatlam and other property in county Durham, and from his father lands in Yorkshire and Northumberland as well as in Durham.

Throughout his life, Bowes engaged in land transactions and in the exploitation of his mining interests, but he first appears as a soldier, commanding 100 cavalry at Dunglass in 1549. He was a commissioner for strengthening the Scottish border in 1555 and marshal of Berwick in 1558, the year of his appointment as steward and constable of the lordship of Barnard Castle. From 1560 he was steward to the bishop of Durham. He was a commissioner for piracy in the bishopric in 1565 and 1578, for ports and havens in 1565, for ecclesiastical matters in the diocese of York in 1566, and for musters in 1569. In 1568 he escorted Mary Queen of Scots from Carlisle to Bolton. He was described by Sir Francis Knollys in a letter to Cecil in this year as ‘a good protestant, and his brother likewise, which is a rare matter in this country’. A year of ill-health just before his death accounts for his ceasing to be a member of the quorum except in Durham.4

His friendly relations with the Earl of Westmorland, lord of the honour of Barnard Castle, did not prevent him from occupying the castle on the outbreak of the 1569 rebellion until forced, by his garrison’s desertion, to compound with the Earl for an evacuation. He was immediately appointed by the Earl of Sussex to be his deputy in Durham and Richmondshire and provost marshal to the army. His harsh treatment of captured rebels gave him an unsavoury reputation, critics noting that Streatlam had been sacked and his possessions at Barnard Castle lost. In reparation he received the household goods of the attainted Earl of Northumberland at Topcliff and Bracenburgh, and some property in Durham and Yorkshire which had been forfeited by other rebels. Shortage of capital, however, forced him to sell land extensively between 1570 and 1571.5

Bowes was a personal friend of Francis Slingsby, who could control parliamentary returns at Knaresborough, and acted with him at the time of the 1569 rebellion. The council in the north presumably nominated him outright at Morpeth. He took an active part in the proceedings of the House, serving on committees concerning the subsidy (7 Apr.) and preservation of woods (10 May) in his first Parliament. In 1576 he was appointed to committees for dags and pistols (17 Feb.), tanned leather (18 Feb.), fraudulent conveyances made by the late rebels in the north parts (25 Feb.) and confirmation of letters patent (3 Mar.).6

He died at Streatlam 20 Aug. 1580 and was buried at Barnard Castle, the ‘surest pillar the Queen’s Majesty had in these parts’.7

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Author: M.N.


  • 1. Did not serve for the full duration of the Parliament.
  • 2. C142/199/72; Arch. Aeliana (ser. 4), xxii. 49; Durham Vis. Peds. ed. Foster, 38; C. Sharp, Memorials of the Rebellion , pp. 372, 373, 376.
  • 3. CPR, 1560-3, pp. 437, 445; Sharp, 389; Lansd. 146, f. 20; 159, ff. 250-1.
  • 4. R. Surtees, Hist. Dur. iv. 101; Yorks. Fines (Yorks. Arch. Soc. ii, v), passim; C142/199/72; Surtees Soc. xciii. 55, 94-5; Border Pprs. i. 4-5; Sharp, 4n, 370, 373, 379, 380; CPR, 1555-7, p. 54; 1557-8, pp. 63, 257; 1560-3, p. 170; APC, vii. 284; Lansd. 146, f. 20; CSP Dom. 1547-80, p. 336; Add. 1547-65, p. 572; E351/541, f. 113; SP12/145.
  • 5. Sharp, 120, 290, 382, 384, 387, 388; Lansd. 13, f. 127; 115, f. 123; W. Hutchinson, Durham, i. 449; CSP Dom. 1547-80, p. 354; Lansd. 13, f. 48; Fuller, Worthies, iii. 456; Surtees Soc. xxi. 229n; Yorks. Fines (Yorks. Arch. Soc. ii), 369, 371, 377, 379, 383.
  • 6. Sharp, 4; CJ, i. 83, 88, 106, 108, 110; D’Ewes, 159, 182, 249, 250, 252.
  • 7. CSP Dom. Add. 158-1625, p. 17.